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Fight Erosion

Massanutten 2006 report.

Good race for me, but those rocks are laughing in your face saying – how tough are you really, hmmm?
Sooo. A week ago, things didn’t look so good. DNF in Hawaii, complaining about supposed injury, then didn’t even complete one of Wendell’s easiest 50k – where was Beat? Was he getting soft? Was he soft all along, just took him a while to figure it out? What was going on? I know that’s what you guys asked yourselves! Given that, the week before MMT I was naturally feeling freaked out. I had even more than my usual share of pre-race pains (including some spectacular foot-weirdness – walking in the office. Go figure). In the good old Chuck travel tradition I did the shortest trip I could figure – red-eye on thursday night – which left me a bit tired. (I don’t think I’ll do that again!). Ok, here’s what you really want to know: How was the race?
For the people who know it: Well, for one the course was a bit easier than in previous years – the finishing times and numbers clearly show it. Not too much easier, I’d say, and a bunch of veterans didn’t do as well as in previous years either (including Sue, Todd Walker and Estes). The weather was – for sub-30 finishers, at least – PERFECT. Overcast coolish but not cold in the day, a little cooler but very moderate at night – NO rain. Monday morning was pouring buckets – phew!

For the people who don’t: I would say >50% of MMT is about – the terrible problem called erosion. MMT rocks are:

  1. Hard
  2. Jagged
  3. Some are fixed, some are LOOSE
  4. All over the place
  5. Sometimes hidden under loose foliage (I call it MMT roulette)
  6. Come in every angle possible
  7. Did I mention they’re hard and jagged?

Most of it because I presume any sort of soil around lots of those rocks has gone away a long time ago. After about 20 miles, my feet said ENOUGH. No more rocks. I also agree with Wendell that it does a little number on your stomach. I felt nauseated from about mile 20 for 15 miles or so, but fortunately got it under control, and I happened to developed a taste for the HEED they served at the aid stations – but I didn’t really eat well in this race. Also the second half of the race is clearly much more grueling than the first – not because you’re tired, either. They throw in a couple of short (1000 ft) but steep climbs at the end (this year they had a VERY steep 800ft climb after mile 97. I mean punch-in-the-stomach steep. In previous years they used switchbacks for this section, but to shorten it, they just picked a path straight up. Insulting.). More importantly though the course becomesĀ  even more technical. It’s definitely worth being fast, because the last 11 miles are not too bad, so the more of that you hit in darkness the better. Anyways, for anyone attempting the MMT, here’s what I think of it: – It’s the most punishing course I’ve done (including HURT) bc your feet don’t really get a break. That said, while they hurt like mile 80 in other races after about 20 miles, it didn’t really get much worse for me, so I sort of got used to it. – It’s the most technical (HURT is slower because it’s more slippery (according to Karl Meltzer, btw:). MMT rocks are probably not too terrible even wet, but at HURT you get wetness even if it doesn’t rain). I didn’t fall, but had numerous hamstring-threatening acrobatic near-falls… – The question is not if you turn your ankle, but how often and how severe. Hans-Dieter dropped very early with a bad ankle, and veterans like Bethany (who won in previous races) had bad problems as well. My ankles were aching a lot after the race. – To be fast, I guess you need to risk falling. I talked to Todd Walker, and he thought some sections I thought were completely unrunnable were quite ok. He also mentioned “I always assume the rocks are stationary” and that he fell 8 times. If I go back, I’ll try to run more on the technical flat sections, of which there are MANY, which I have walked this time.

Personally, the race was – despite the grueling course – a great experience. After about 20 or so miles a couple of runners bonded – Rande being one of them (also a Chuck victim) – which I think had a huge effect in my ability to finish and the time I got. I’ll tell you the stories in person sometimes, but until nightfall we had a LOT of fun, and GREAT!!! company, and we pushed each other. We reached 50m in about 11:30hrs. When Hans heard that, he had a brief statisfied smirk his face and the pressure was ON (I couldn’t let him down!!!). After nightfall the other guys/girls picked up their pacers (also I should mention Rande’s crew – his wife and friends of theirs – were really helpful to me) we separated and I finished the race alone. There were some demoralizingly slow technical sections, but apart from that I was closely following Diana (one of our little team) and being closely followed by Rande, which kept me moving fast! I kept feeling fairly good – I developed some stiffness in my leg at short mountain, just where I got injured and starting to have similar symptoms, but was able to massage it out and after a few miles it became clear it wouldn’t get bad. I was able to overtake a bunch of people in those sections by putting on a very strong power-hike over the non-runnable stuff – that turned out very well. At the very end I had still lots of energy and was able to take 3 mins off a guy I overtook about half (or maybe one?) a mile before the finish. I guess I didn’t go hard enough before …

Anyways, long story short – 22nd out of 113 finishers/151 starters, 26:22:45. My personal best in a hundred. I guess now I’m glad I didn’t try to run Diablo 50! Rande also did extremely well – just a few minutes more, improving his last year’s time nearly 4 hrs, and Diana same thing – improving her time 6 hrs!

Btw, the new PCTR Gaiters are WAY better than the Joe Trailman ones because of the additional velcro on the side and the inverted hook (very smart). They stay on no matter what. I changed my socks only once (at which point I introduced a very small rock into my shoe – duh. Too lazy to take it out though). Only one insignificant blister …

Also I am FINALLY sick of being the guy with the biggest ridiculous pack out there. It’s heavy. People overfill my GIGANTIC bladder. Hans (who also crewed after he had to drop very early) reprimanded me. I used nearly NOTHING in my pack. Ok. I WILL SLIM IT DOWN. I don’t want to be the trail clown ANY MORE!

I am still thinking I should try Ohlone next sunday. Maybe I’ll see you there!

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